The HTC One XL isn’t a design we’ve never seen before; it’s the HTC One X with a few tweaks. Well, by “tweaks”, we mean some pretty awesome under-the-hood changes. It picks up where the One X left off, but has moved from a Quad-Core Tegra 3 CPU to a Dual-Core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 chipset as well as an LTE modem for break-neck mobile data speeds (in Telstra’s 4G coverage, obviously). Don’t let the change from 4 cores to 2 cores fool you, the One XL is just as speedy and power efficient as the One X thanks to the ARM Cortex-A15 architecture that the chip is built on.

That other addition to the One XL is LTE — more specifically it’s Telstra’s 4G LTE, at least it is in the case of the One XL being sold here. The One XL will allow speeds of up to 100Mbit down and 50Mbit up, but in the real world you can halve that, which is still mind-blowing in all honesty. While Telstra might be slow to rollout their 4G network, if you’re in a metro area or a large country town you’re likely to see 4G in the near future and the One XL is one of many devices to keep an eye on.

In terms of design the One XL is exactly the same as the One X, which itself is an absolutely stunning piece of hardware — by far the best Android phone we’ve played with to date (so that doesn’t include the upcoming Galaxy S III from Samsung). The screen is a large 4.7-inches and has a resolution of 1280×720 (312 PPI) and it is the best looking display on the market, and that’s not coming from just me, the tech industry whole-heartedly agrees. Most of the time you’ll have the full 4.7-inches for your own use, unless the app needs the old-school menu button, in which case the phone will use up ~90 pixels to display a single menu button (in the same way the Galaxy Nexus has on-screen buttons).

As for buttons and hardware you have 3 capacitive buttons under the display in the formation of: back, home and multitasking (you can get some insight into the One X(L)’s multitasking here). There’s an 8MP camera and LED flash on the rear of the device (1.2MP on the front), and it’s the one of the best cameras we’ve used on an Android smartphone — right up there with the Samsung Galaxy S II. The camera protrudes out from the back of the phone, so it can be a scratching hazard. The camera has a handful of built-in effects which are quite good, but with the recent introduction of Instagram for Android, they’re now pretty pointless. Video can be shot in 1080p at 30FPS with the helpful addition of some pretty shonky stabilisation.

[nggallery id=130]

Accompanying the camera on the rear is a loudspeaker and dock connectors, although we’re not aware of any official docks that make use of it. On the right hand side is the volume rocker sitting all on its lonesome — no dedicated camera button here. On the left side is the Micro USB input which can also be used as HDMI-out if you buy an MHL adapter (about $30). On the bottom is the in-call microphone. And on the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack, power button and a dedicated noise cancelling microphone which does a good job in-call.

In terms of overall performance the One XL is very speedy and there’s no discernible difference between Snapdragon S4 and Tegra 3. We benchmarked — using quadrant — against the Galaxy Nexus and scored well over 1,000 points higher (see below).

In hand the One XL is the best feeling and looking Android devices that we’ve reviewed, and I’m not just saying that because I bought one, I’m saying that because after reviewing the One X I fell in love and decided to jump on the “One” bandwagon.

Pros

  • Design is second-to-none
  • Best display on a smartphone
  • LTE and DC-HSPA+
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Sense UI can be over-the-top at times
  • Multitasking handling is over-kill
  • Some HTC apps can’t be disabled
  • No expandable memory
  • No removable battery (a con for some)

What we like

We like pretty much everything about the HTC One XL. It provided more than enough battery life to get me through the average use in a day — something a lot of phone nowadays can’t achieve. The battery life was much better than that of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Camera performance blew nearly every phone (except for the Galaxy S II) out of the water with its vibrant colouring, even in low-light situations.

If there’s anything to turn people off the HTC One XL, it’ll be Sense UI, but I found it to be rather enjoyable, especially since it has been toned down from version 3.0 (it’s at 4.0 at the moment). The device is running Android 4.0, so we’re right up to date with Android, and can enjoy Ice Cream-only apps such as Google Chrome BETA.

A massive bonus in the HTC One XL is Dual-Cell HSPA+, which can double the speed of normal HSPA+ from 21.1Mbps to 42.2Mbps. We can confirm DC-HSPA+ works perfectly in the variant of the One XL from MobiCity — can’t confirm for the Telstra version until it is unannounced / released. We were seeing speeds of 7Mbps to 15Mbps downlink in real-world usage and it was pretty stable between 1Mbps to 2Mbps uplink. LTE is a whole new ball game; we saw speeds up to 50Mbps in Brisbane (as tested by the MobiCity team), 50Mbps in Sydney (as tested by Ross from PC World Aus) and the same here in Melbourne. Even if LTE isn’t in your area, DC-HSPA+ is godsend for Telstra users.

As a music lover, I was quite happy with the performance of Beats Audio (yes, it’s just a bass increase profile (software)) and will happily say it has the best audio of any device I’ve reviewed. The loudspeaker is also great, but when sitting on its back the speak sits flush with the surface of whatever it’s sitting on, so sound can be very soft. If you’re going to listen to music using the loudspeaker, the best thing to do is sit it down on the display side.

What can be improved

Hmm.. what didn’t we like about the HTC One XL. Sense UI normally springs to mind, but it’s actually really bearable on the One XL. The keyboard had to be the most annoying thing we found. It’s quite slow to respond to finger presses, so you can’t type really fast and expect it to keep up. Even swapping out the Sense UI keyboard for a custom one from the market made little difference. Over time you get used to typing slower, but we’d much prefer the fast typing on the Galaxy Nexus.

Expandable memory is likely to be a limiting factor if you’re a big media consumer. There’s 16GB built-in and that’s as far as she goes. There’s no Micro SD slot to add more storage, instead your only other option is using a cloud service and streaming it to your device over Wi-Fi (or 3G if you’re a billionaire). I don’t regularly store large files on my device, and use Grooveshark for music streaming, so it isn’t at all an issue for me.

If you are a big music listener, you’re going to have to buy your own suitable headphones. The ones that are included are complete crap and aren’t even the mediocre Beats headphones that were once included in the HTC Sensation range of devices. We recommend buying a $50 pair of Sennheisers and enjoying the audio quality.

The last thing that can be improved is the volume of notification sounds and the notification LED — both are lacklustre. When you listen to music, the loudspeaker is at a sufficient volume that can be heard from a fair distance away, but when you receive a notification it purposes makes the sound softer. While this might be great when you’re in a meeting (or texting in class when your teacher’s not looking), it’s pretty bad in normal use. The same goes for the notification LED, it’s very dull and can’t be seen very well when looking at the device from an angle.

Specs..

  • 1.5GHz Dual-Core Snapdragon S4 CPU
  • Adreno 220 GPU
  • Android 4.0.3 w/ Sense UI 4.0
  • 4.7-inch 1280×720 (312 PPI) Super LCD2 Display
  • 850/900/1900/2100MHz DC-HSPA+ (42.2Mbps / 5.76Mbps)
  • 1800MHz / 2600MHz 4G LTE (Telstra 4G)
  • 16GB Internal, 1GB RAM
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • 8MP Camera / 1.2MP Camera (1080p video)
  • 1800mAh Battery
  • Beats Audio

Conclusion

Having not yet played with and reviewed the Galaxy S III from Samsung, we can easily say that this is the best Android phone available on the market at this very moment. It brings together the epicness (coined it) that is the HTC One X and adds extreme LTE and Dual-Cell HSPA+ speeds — a must have for hardcore streamers of music and video.

It’s hard to fault the HTC One XL. HTC have put a lot of time, effort and resources into creating something great and they have come out with something exactly that. We recommend the HTC One XL to everyone looking for a sexy, classy looking phone that has performance to boot.

The HTC One XL is available for purchase from MobiCity (and soon: Telstra) for $829 at the time of posting this review.

Google+
  • Nathan

    Good review, but why oh why do makers not include expandable memory (Nexus too). It’s crazy these days and really limits the device. The DC-HSPA sounds great and the real world LTE speeds are insane. Good review.

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      I guess they all prefer to move to the internal storage instead. There’s expected to be a 32GB model on Telstra when it launches, but at the moment there’s only 16GB.

    • http://twitter.com/twalkbox Dennis

      The Galaxy S3 is expandable to 64G. Even the Sony Xperia GX (Arc successor) which also uses the S4 chipset will have an expandable microSD slot (currently a Japan only model but an international release would have to be imminent). Both these phones also have a removeable battery. So some of the manufacturers are listening to users.

  • NOZ

    Nice review. I guess one thing I would be worried about, and prob not a factor for many, would be custom roms…due to Australia using different 4g frequency I would assume availability of radios on the custom roms to either be incompatible or few and far between. Rather tempting would like to see what Samsung has to first tho. Maybe we’ll.see 4g

    • Franko

      Great review,

      Can you please confirm if it has DC-HSPA+ shouldnt we be receiving 20Mbps + on DC-HSPA+?

      • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

        If the tower is feeling good about itself, it may give you 20Mbps+, but in real world use and with this specific modem, it will reach real speeds between 1Mbps and 15Mbps.

  • Tyson

    Are you able to test Battery life on 4G? There’s a big difference on my velocity.

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      I don’t spend a lot of time in the LTE enabled area, so I can’t test a real days use. But when we did, it did drain a noticeable amount.

  • Geoff Fieldew

    Texting while your Teacher isn’t looking. I love it!

  • Luke Pocock

    Looks Good. I have a HTC One X and I agree about the keyboard. I ended up downloading a Stock/Custom ICS Keyboard and it is so much better now. No slow response time and it just feels better too. Give it a go

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      Jumping on to your recommendation now. The Sense UI keyboard is balls.

    • Damon Lewis

      I can’t go past Swiftkey, it’s been well worth the money I spent on it.

  • aryonoco

    Buzz,

    Snapdragon S4 is NOT a ARM Cortex-A15. It is a Krait design. Qualcomm designs its own ARM-compatible instruction sets. It doesn’t use ARM’s off-the-shelf designs like others do.

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      I stand corrected, and feel good about this.

    • http://twitter.com/twalkbox Dennis

      Isn’t the Krait based on A15 though? The S4 is not completely bespoke.

      In any case, I guess the takeaway point is that the Snapdragon S4 has the smaller and more powerful (size-wise) and power efficient 28nm footprint compared to the 40nm Tegra 3.

  • GreviousMcg

    Nice camera on it and great review, Buzz.

  • Rasterman

    Hi Buzz, it’s probably worth mentioning that the one true downgrade of the One XL over the X is in the internal storage department, to 16GB from 32GB. I’m not sure it’s entirely clear from the review.

  • Wen

    Been interested this for awhile . Bit disappointed about the lack of a Micro SD slot. The notification lights & LED…iffy about that, I suppose it depends on the situation you’re in. But apart from those, this phone definitely gets the thumbs up from me…too bad I won’t be getting it…

  • Will

    How is the multitasking? Does it also have the new style HTC multitasking that the One X has (aggressively closing background apps)?

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      It’s there if you look for it. Because the apps reload to the state they were in so quickly, you hardly notice.

      • http://twitter.com/twalkbox Dennis

        That’s still got to eat into battery life though right?

  • Milty C

    Such a shame they crippled such a great phone with only 16 gig. I have already fallen for that trick with my galaxy Nexus, never again. Might wait for a 32 gig version.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Walcott-Mouchaileh/749141150 Joseph ‘Walcott’ Mouchaileh

    Was the battery as good as the one x or better?

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      Exactly the same in our usage.

      • http://twitter.com/twalkbox Dennis

        Really? I’m surprised since the S4 in the XL is supposed to be more power efficient than the Tegra 3 in the X and both the X and XL have the same 1,800mAh battery.

        Is that because of some 4G usage in your tests with the XL?

  • somemadcaaant

    Damn why you butcher the photos from the camera? A (very) low res shot will never represent an original image. 8(

  • http://twitter.com/twalkbox Dennis

    I was thinking about getting the One X/XL but then I saw some videos showing the browser being quite temperamental where it would constantly redraw web pages after zooming in and out and also shifting the web page from where you left it which would be frustrating I think because you don’t have full control over what it is exactly you’ve zoomed in/out to see. I think it have to do with text reflow.

    Buzz I don’t think you haven’t mentioned this in your review. What’s been your experience with the browser? Does using a 3rd party one like Dolphin HD make any difference?

  • http://www.reviewsexpert.net/ Reviews Expert

    great mobile.good post.

  • waavo

    How do you get access to Telstra LTE with this phone. They dont sell a sim only for 4g. Do the standard sim only’s connect to 4G automatically?

    I suppose I am asking : I have a telstra sim on Cap Encore so if I bought this would it connect to the 4G signal?

    • http://ausdroid.net/ Buzz Moody

      Yep, if you have a normal, fairly new SIM, then it will work on Telstra 4G.

      • graeme

        I got this phone the day it was released on Telstra…. Its 32 GB. An android update was released a couple of days ago. Since updating its blazing fast….. As for the notification led and speaker volume…. I dont have any issues with them. The external speaker is very clear and loud…….. I personally like the text reflow in the browser…. If u dont…. Use a differnent browser. Same for the keyboard. Easy fixes.

  • Wez10

    I have just picked one up, had it for 1 day. The loudspeaker is reall really quiet, on maximum volume it is about half the volume of the S2, is this normal or have i got a dud? It happend with music, and video (youtube) it can barely be heard???

  • http://twitter.com/boy_kid_ninja NinjaBoy

    hey cool review. also notice a nice widget and wallpaper on the galaxy nexus. what are they called?

  • Benny

    Where can I find this wallpaper?! It used to be on the HTC hub servers but now I can’t access it. Is there a filename I can google? Green hills? Blue sky? Large moon?